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Sci Eng Ethics. 2018 Aug;24(4):1035-1055. doi: 10.1007/s11948-017-9976-1. Epub 2017 Sep 22.

Ethical Design of Intelligent Assistive Technologies for Dementia: A Descriptive Review.

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Institute for Biomedical Ethics, University of Basel, Bernoullistrasse 28, 4056, Basel, Switzerland.
Health Ethics and Policy Lab, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH, Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute for Biomedical Ethics, University of Basel, Bernoullistrasse 28, 4056, Basel, Switzerland.
Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, Institute for Health and Society, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA.
Felix Platter Hospital, University Center for Medicine of Aging, Basel, Switzerland.
Chair of Geriatrics, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.
Center for Legal Medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.


The use of Intelligent Assistive Technology (IAT) in dementia care opens the prospects of reducing the global burden of dementia and enabling novel opportunities to improve the lives of dementia patients. However, with current adoption rates being reportedly low, the potential of IATs might remain under-expressed as long as the reasons for suboptimal adoption remain unaddressed. Among these, ethical and social considerations are critical. This article reviews the spectrum of IATs for dementia and investigates the prevalence of ethical considerations in the design of current IATs. Our screening shows that a significant portion of current IATs is designed in the absence of explicit ethical considerations. These results suggest that the lack of ethical consideration might be a codeterminant of current structural limitations in the translation of IATs from designing labs to bedside. Based on these data, we call for a coordinated effort to proactively incorporate ethical considerations early in the design and development of new products.


Artificial intelligence; Assistive technology; Dementia; Ethical design; Neurotechnology; Proactive ethics; User-centered


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